Insomnia or reality?

 

It was the end of 2012 and we were still living in Beijing, China, but with everything ready to move back to Scandinavia: work contract signed, apartment rented, air plane tickets bought and all our stuff packed up and ready to be shipped across the ocean.

We were excited to be coming back and ready to leave that two-year adventure behind and start a new one: a family. I’ve already been looking at houses and station wagons for sale and had started taking folic acid supplements, so the next logical step was to stop taking the birth control pill.

Arriving here, just before Christmas, there was so much snow everywhere it made everything a little more hectic; yet the purity and silence of fresh snow matched perfectly the idea of a new beginning.

Those first months were nothing but crazy: new jobs, looking for a house and a car, discussing loans with banks, insurances, buying furniture, unpacking… There was little time to worry about not getting pregnant, though it didn’t stop the disappointment of getting my period every month.

By April, we were settled on our new 4 bedroom house with a big backyard, furnished and decorated, ready for this family to get started, but without a pregnancy in sight. My periods were just getting longer and longer every month and already reaching 40 days. That was the time I started worrying whether I was even ovulating and decided to see a doctor for advice.

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This is how our journey to parenthood started. In November 2013 followed the first pregnancy and first loss, with such raw emotions that can only be lived once.

Today, over three years after those dreams started to materialize, I found myself in the same, yet new, situation: same house, empty ‘baby room’; same grassy backyard without flowers; same car, without a baby seat; same employer, same job; same marriage.

The future I had envisioned when dreaming of returning to Europe was another; one with a beautiful crib in the next door room to ours, with a doll house in the garden, with toddler laughter and Lego pieces all over the floor, with lazy Saturday mornings of cuddles in bed and pancakes for breakfast.

As my old friend insomnia makes herself comfortable in my bed again, I search for books to keep me company during these too early hours of the day and run into “The Book of Disquiet”, from the great writer and poet Fernando Pessoa. Considering purchasing it, I find a passage that seems to describe this moment in my life so perfectly:

[Life is] the waking insomnia of [our] dreams. 

Laying awake in bed or fulfilling my duties at work, I’m only truly waiting; anxiously counting the days and years as the insomniac counts the hours; hoping I can soon return to where I really want to be: in my dreams. Those dreams I still hold on to since 2012.

Will somebody help me fall sleep?

Doubts and choices

Monday evening, as I left the RPL clinic’s information meeting, my overall feeling was disappointment.

It started out nicely. The room was filled with over 30 other couples. The doctor presented himself and pointed out the fact he’s been treating patients suffering from recurrent miscarriage for the past 30 years.

He started by showing some common ‘myths’ we hear all the time. The first one, ‘If you just try again, next time it should be fine’, he replied to with some statistics. He said after 3 miscarriages there’s over 60% chance of another miscarriage in any subsequent pregnancy without proper treatment, while after 5 miscarriages there’s almost 80% chance. The second myth, ‘It was probably some chromosomal error with the baby’, he commented by saying his research has shown that it’s not the case with patients dealing with recurrent miscarriage. In such cases, about 90% of the babies are chromosomally normal (of course it varies with the age of the mother and other factors; this number was for young, otherwise healthy women).

At this point I was feeling quite excited and hopeful. I thought, finally a doctor who’s willing to investigate and treat me.

During the rest of his presentation, the doctor explained some of the main causes of recurrent miscarriages and the treatments they offer. He also showed a graph outlining the success rate of his treatments, which seemed to vary significantly with the number of miscarriages the woman had prior to starting treatment. Women with 3 previous losses had up to 75% success in 5 years’ time, while women with 6 had about 60% (bear in mind that I’m writing these numbers from memory, so they might not be exact).

Throughout his presentation there were a few things that bothered me. When talking about immunological causes to miscarriages, he mentioned natural killer (NK) cells and their impact in the developing embryo, however said it wasn’t possible to actually measure these cells and instead, they look for other indications. If such ‘indications’ are present, he can offer treatment. Many other doctors offer a NK assay, so I don’t understand why he’d say it can’t be measured (I guess he doesn’t believe in the current methods).

Another thing was, he never mentioned alloimmunity as possible cause, nor did he mention lymphocyte immunization therapy (LIT) as possible treatment. He also only touched upon testing for lupus anticoagulant antibodies (which I have already been tested for, several times), as opposed to the complete assay of antiphospholipid antibodies I was hoping for.

These observations, among other smaller ones, were a bit discouraging, but at this point I was still feeling quite hopeful. Until, after listing the different treatment options (including IVIg, Hydroxychloroquine, prednisone, heparin) and explaining that each treatment protocol is personal, based on the patient’s test results and history, he presented a few protocol guidelines.

The first one was: history of 3 miscarriages, all blood tests normal. Treatment offered in this case is tender loving care. In other words, nothing. That pushed me over the edge. Four miscarriages entitles one to Hydroxychloroquine and five, to IVIg; but three is just try again.

How could he say that after opening up with the myth ‘If you just try again, next time it should (NOT) be fine’? I don’t get it. Not to mention that tender loving care should be offered to everyone, despite previous losses or not. And when I hear doctors suggest tender loving care as treatment for recurrent miscarriage it makes me think they believe my stress and anxiety caused my miscarriages (instead of the other way around, the losses causing me stress). And I really don’t need the extra guilt that comes from such thoughts.

After the doctor’s presentation, a nurse explained the practical details and showed us how to fill in all the forms. She also emphasized the importance of emotional support, stating that over 60% of all RPL patients are highly stressed and up to 9% are moderately or severally depressed. Included in the forms we need to send back to them are assessments of our stress and depression levels, for both partners. This thoughtfulness was refreshing, as I often felt the psychological impact of our losses and infertility was neglected by the medical staff. How they intend on dealing with the stress affected patients, however, remains to be seen.

The nurse explained the expected timeline as well. The initial consultation will happen in the next 2 months, when the patient’s history is discussed and blood is drawn for testing. About 6 weeks later patients are called back in to go through the results and chosen treatment protocol. Only after that we’re cleared to try again (she emphasized several times that we should avoid pregnancy until then).

The meeting ended with a very emotional account from a previous patient of her experience. She went through 7 losses before giving birth to her daughter. Her story was so touching, it left most of the women present in tears.

When the meeting was over, I had some practical questions to the nurse and during our short conversation she confirmed that I’ll probably only get the initial appointment in the beginning of March, so our FET isn’t likely to happen before May.

Overall it was a very good meeting. All the staff seemed very caring and there are many options of treatments and testing. Why I left with such overwhelming disappointment feeling, I can’t explain. I don’t understand it myself. But the truth is ever since that meeting I’ve been into a horrible funk.

Up until Monday I’ve been feeling a lot more like my old self, thinking optimistically, acting more socially and so on. I thought I was finally learning how to cope with all this.

Since the meeting I’ve gone back into misery mode: crying everyday (several times a day, including at work, hiding in the bathroom), wanting to hide from everyone, not able to concentrate on my job, needing over an hour of self convincing every morning just to get out of bed and face the world, etc. And I don’t really know how or why I got here.

My only guess is fear. Fear that after all the tests and all the waiting I’ll be told to try again without any treatment. And I’m very familiar with the result of just trying again.

I think I might be overwhelmed with doubts: whether I should trust this doctor, whether I’m wasting time (if I’m supposed to just try again then I might as well do it next month), whether I should look for a more ‘aggressive’ RI (like Braverman), whether I should make more lifestyle changes (such as going gluten-free)… The list goes on and on.

The positive from this is: I have choices. There are many options I can pursue if it doesn’t go well with this specialist. I just need to stay strong until then and keep going. Which is easier said than done, right now…

 

Running off the wait

I’m back. Back home, back to work, back to our baby pursuit. 

I missed home. Missed my bed and the silent evenings – no honking or noise from cars. I didn’t miss work much. I can’t stop thinking about looking for another job. Sometimes I even flirt with the idea of stop working for a while altogether. In the meantime, I’m trying to not get so stressed about it. 

My bronchitis is a bit better, but not completely gone yet. I saw an allergist this week. I already had this appointment booked before going on vacation, so it’s not related to my latest issues. I was supposed to get tested to find out exactly which kinds of NSAIDs I’m allergic to, if only aspirin is a problem or other drugs as well, such as ibuprofen, which I have avoided all my life.

This was a new doctor, I’ve never met him before. I was quite nervous prior to the consultation, I guess due to some sort of doctor anxiety I’ve developed latetly after so many bad experiences with different REs and ObGyns. However I was very positively surprised. He was so nice and upbeat and most importantly, didn’t mind my questions. Our losses came up during the initial talk and he was quite understanding.

I ended up not having the tests done, though. He said it would be too dangerous, potentially life-threatening to carry them out without making sure my asthma is under control first. Well, as far as I know, it’s been under control for over 15 years. He’s not convinced. I’ve then been given the task to monitor my lung capacity by measuring and registering my peak flow 4 times a day in an asthma journal. The catch being, I need to go out and run everyday, attempting to trigger my asthma.

I naively expect doctors to heal us from our ailments, but apparently they can recommend us to get ourselves sick too. Doesn’t it sound fun, after all, running in icy weather every evening, trying as hard as I can to provoke an asthma attack so the doctor can know how bad it is? I’m an engineer, I can value data and analysis as much as the next scientist, but hoped doctors would be more careful with our health. 

On the plus side, I’ve been thinking of starting running again, so it’s a nice motivation (however I originally planned on running without triggering my asthma). I’ve put on quite a bit of weight since the last miscarriage. Basically, I stopped caring about what I was eating and have comforted some of my pain with lots of chocolate. The result is not surprising. 

I always stop exercising and switch to only walking when I’m trying to conceive or pregnant. This time, however, I think I’m on a long forced break, so I have time to get back in shape before starting treatment again. I hope to know more tomorrow.

After our RE refused to refer us to the RPL specialist, our last resort was our GP. I saw her about a couple of months ago and asked for the referral. She agreed, but didn’t follow the required procedure and attach all the test results necessary. It took us over a month, calling different doctors in different hospitals, to collect everything that was requested and send it to the specialist clinic. Stressful work that could’ve been avoided if only my GP would do her part. 

The good news is we managed to get it done just days before Christmas break, which means we qualified for starting the process now, in January, as opposed to in 3 or 4 months from now.

The first step is attending a mandatory information meeting at the clinic. This will happen tomorrow evening. They will explain us (and all other couples attending) what treatments they offer, which tests they run, etc. I also hope to get a better idea of the timeline. So far, they’ve only communicated that we can’t get an appointment with the doctor if we don’t attend this info meeting and that the consultation will be booked sometime within a couple of months after the meeting (so, from tomorrow).

I was quite frustrated when first hearing of this. I was hoping to have our first FET (frozen embryo transfer) in February or latest March. Now, I’m guessing it won’t happen before May, considering the first appointment is only in 2 months, which will be followed by testing, waiting for results, starting treatment (which often needs to take place up to 6 weeks before conceiving), until finally getting the OK to do the FET. 

I had moments when I wanted to give up on the doctors here and just try Barverman or some other RI abroad. Our pragmatism, however, is telling us to give it a chance. Having treatment locally (instead of abroad) is much more practical, and it being publicly funded (through our taxes), it’s basically ‘free’. We can always change our minds and try another RI later. For now, we’re going to stick with this specialist and see what they have to say tomorrow. With a bit of luck, there aren’t many couples awaiting treatment and we get an appointment in only a few weeks.

Until then, I’ll try to control my impatience by running (and hopefully triggering my asthma) and improving my diet.

Crushed expectations

It’s a new year. Christmas is behind us. Most people is back to work and to their normal routines. I’m still on vacation for another week, which is great. I’m still at my husband’s home country, which is not always easy.

We arrived the weekend before Christmas. I fell sick with hay fever immediately, which has progressed into a nasty cough and difficulty breathing (I’m suspecting bronchitis, but didn’t bother seeing a doctor). I always get allergies here, it’s the high humidity together with bad housing habits (such as never opening any windows!) and the bedroom of my husband’s brother which constantly emanates cigarette fumes.

I’m so tired of being sick and no medicine is helping. I’ve also got eczema and psoriasis all over my face. Makes me think my immune system has gone haywire. I’ve told my husband I’m not coming here if I’m pregnant, I’m pretty sure these reactions could harm the pregnancy.

We spent Christmas Eve and day at his aunt’s in the countryside, as usual. It was fine. There were times I had to hide and cry, but overall not too bad. 

I never feel like I really belong when I’m with his family or his parents. I guess it’s not unexpected when I’m from another country and we see each other about once or twice a year, at best. Although I shouldn’t assume to be close to them in these conditions, living far away, being from a different culture, it still bothers me, feeling inadequate. 

I think these feelings are more pronounced now because I always hoped that once we had a child I’d finally be part of his family. A baby, half him and half me, would connect me to his relatives like nothing else could. A grandchild would bring his mother and I together, at last. This is probably an unrealistic, romantic idea, but I’ve hold onto it for too long and being here once again, feeling just as far away from a baby as 3 years ago, simply brings me down.

However this was not my biggest disappointment these holidays. I don’t expect his relatives to understand how hard this is for me or to show compassion for my struggle, especially when we’re not even that close. That’s ok with me, I just hold it in and pretend everything is fine. 

I did expect, though, that they would be more supportive of my husband. He’s been having a hard time and, just before we left, he wrote a lengthy and emotional email to his parents opening up about how he’s been feeling and telling them he’s taking medicine for anxiety. They replied that they’re shocked but they’d talk once we arrived. 

I spent several days in anxious anticipation for a Big Talk, feeling like a teenager again, when my parents would sit across me on the sofa to complain about something I was doing wrong. The talk never came. Actually, they never mentioned anything about our situation and never even asked him how he was doing. There were no questions about future treatments or next steps either. Just complete and utter silence.

I know better than to await support or sensitive comments from my parents. I’ve learned the hard way they’re simply not equipped for that. But I expected more from his parents. His family always seemed like this TV-show-from-the-80’s perfect family, all hugs and I-love-you’s. I thought they were going to be there for him; not for me, but at least for him. My husband: their son, nephew or cousin is hurting and no one, absolutely no one, offered a ear, a longer hug, words of compassion. Only silence and pretending all is fine. Denial. 

One situation in particular sickened me. My husband’s cousin, who has always been so close to him and who he considers like a big brother, made a comment that got me fuming. We were doing a short hike in the hills around town and his cousin was complaining to my husband that he hadn’t organised his mother’s surprise birthday party yet (she’s turning 60 in a week; her birthday is actually the reason we’re staying here so long). My husband replied with something on the lines of I don’t think I’m in a good state to throw a party, I have too much on my mind lately. I felt like he was trying to open up, to give him a clue. But his cousin, very dismissively, said: I can’t imagine what can be on your mind; you’re on vacation, there can’t be anything worrying you right now!. My husband, of course, stepped back and agreed to handle everything soon (which he didn’t because he really can’t right now, but nobody seems to understand or care). I was so angry, I wanted to yell at him, call him insensitive or worse. But of course I didn’t do anything, I don’t want to get between them. 

We are doing better now. We left on a little trip just the two of us after Christmas. We are staying in a hotel (my health is thankful for that) and the plan was to have many nice, long walks, but we’ve been a little unlucky with the weather. It’s raining a lot, so sometimes we manage to take a walk in nature or sightsee the area, other times we are simply relaxing, watching movies, reading a book or taking a long bath. That’s just what we need now. And I need to reenergise before going back to my in-laws’. 

I’ll leave you with some pics of the area, it’s really beautiful, I recommend a visit!

   
    
  
 

Happy new year

I haven’t been posting, haven’t been finding the time to write during the vacation. However, as 2016 approaches, I’d just like to say a few words.

This year, as I faced more disappointment, more hardships and another loss, I’ve also found the incredible support from this online community, which has helped me immensely. Thank you to each and every one of you for your words of compassion and encouragement. 

I hope 2016 will be a better year for all of us and wish you find the strength to fight for your happiness, in whatever way or form it may come.

  
  

Declaration of love

My husband is not the most romantic kind of guy. Buying flowers or writing love poems doesn’t come naturally to him. He never even made the big wedding proposal. I always knew that’s who he is, and I love him as he is, so it’s not a problem for me.

On our wedding ceremony, we were expecting that during the exchange of rings we were going to repeat after the officiant, so we didn’t prepare anything. When the moment actually came, he asked us to say our vows. Both my husband and I froze at the moment; we had to improvise and come up with something at the spot. He said a simple “I love you so much”, which he could barely pronounce as he started to tear up. It meant everything to me; even though he didn’t say much, I could see it all in his eyes. That moment is what most people remember best from our wedding. It was truly emotional and beautiful.

He’s maybe not the most romantic guy out there, but he’s amazing with kids. Every kid, of any age, loves him. He just have a way with them, I can’t explain. I used to love watching him play with our friends’ or my siblings’ children. Now, it breaks my heart. I know that being a father is his biggest desire and it kills me that I can’t do this for him.

Lately he’s been having a hard time coping. As his optimism failed, he now has to find something else to hold on to. He started seeing a therapist to help him through it.

The other day, when I arrived home from work, he was in bed, reading. I lay down with him and we started talking. He was saying how he’s been feeling sad and that he thinks only now he’s started to allow himself to grieve all our losses, not only our babies, but our dreams and ideas of the future. He also told me the psychologist had suggested that he tries to imagine how can our life be if the treatments don’t succeed.

We’re talking about this when he said: I love you and I want to be with you even if we can’t have children. I didn’t marry you only for having children, I married you to be with you. I was very glad he said that, and replied: I know, I feel the same, but when we married we expected children, we both wanted children and agreed to have children. His answer was the best declaration of love I could ever wish for at this moment in our lives: I would still have married you even if I knew beforehand that we couldn’t have children together. Tears started rolling down my face, we hugged and cried together for a little while. 

These simple words may be taken for granted by others not struggling so much to carry a baby to term, or if I didn’t blame myself and my body for this failure. Right now, however, it means the world to me. It means we will manage to be ok, no matter what the future brings. Together.

Picture of us made by a manga artist in Kyoto.

Baby talk

It’s everywhere. There are no safe places. There’s no escaping it. It comes when and where we least expect and we can never be prepared enough for it.

It happens at work, in the canteen during lunch, when a friend from the Beijing office visiting the headquarters asks me in front of everyone: how about your baby? Where’s your baby? How come there’s no baby yet?, as she expected me to start trying 3 years ago when I finished my 2 years stationing period in Beijing. If only she knew that I did start trying 3 years ago… I answer simply: No baby yet, and ignore the puzzled eyes all around me in the lunch table waiting for more explanations.

Or when another friend comes back from her year long maternity leave and asks me on the corridor, what about you, any news?, as she knew we were trying and knew about the first 2 losses. To which I asnwer: well, I’ve lost 2 more babies since you left for mat leave. She replies, wow, I don’t know how you can handle it, but immeaditelly proceeds to tell me every detail of her labour and how it was the most horrible experience of her life (is this supposed to make me feel better about my losses, because it doesn’t really work).

Or when I get backed into a corner in the lady’s room by another colleague, asking me: have you heard about IVF? You probably qualify for public funded IVF, did you know? Have you tried? She pushes and pushes on the subject until I feel forced to tell her my whole story, even though I’m not close enough to her.

Or when I arrive at my desk to find a one year something toddler siting on my chair, playing with my stuff, drooling on my notes and feel forced to smile and play with him although I really just want to scream.

Or when another colleague, still in mat leave, brings her few months old child to the office and it somehow ends up in my arms, while all my colleagues are laughing and jokingly saying: be careful, it’s contagious (I so wish it was true).

Or when I’m at the quiropractor (because of general pains I get from tension and stress which always get worse after another loss) and she asks me what exercises I do, and when I say I’ve stopped running and only do yoga and walk as per doctor recommendation, she wants to know why. I try to say as nonchalantly as possible: we’re trying to have a child but we’ve lost 4 babies so far. She asks again, how many?, and after hearing 4 another time, she says, with little compassion on her voice, I guess that must be hard. I, trying to hold it together, answer simply, yes, it’s very hard. Which is followed by several minutes of awkward silence.

Or when I’m at Yoga class, hoping to relax a bit, and the instructor asks me: are you pregnant? (maybe due to gaining some weight since the last miscarriage) and after hearing no, continues to say: You have to tell me if you get pregnant, because there are exercises you can’t do. I feel extremelly embarrassed with all heads turned to me, not knowing what to say, when in reality I’ve been pregnant and miscarried twice since starting in this class. During the first minutes of guided relaxation, I can’t help but feel the tears rolling down my face, and just hope no one else is noticing it.

I could go on and on with more examples, but I’m sure we all have our own collection of similar situations. They can’t be avoided. It just feels exhausting sometimes. 

Winter beauty 

In these years living in Scandinavia, I’ve come to appreciate the winter season. There’s something especially peaceful about a pristine blue sky winter day, like today. The crispy air (when not too windy) feels pure and cleansing. I love the sensations brought by a beautiful winter day.

Today, being one of these gorgeous days, my husband and I went for a relaxing walk around our little town and the woods behind our house.

 

Woods nearby our house.

  

The stream is full and muddy from all the rain of the past days.

  

Our street is visible when coming out of the woods.

  

View of our little town from the lake.

  

View of the summer royal palace from the lake.

 
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Strolling down surrounded by nature, talking about great memories we hold of the two of us traveling around the world together, made me think of why we chose to live here. It made me feel grateful and fortunate for all the good things we have, a nice home, good jobs that allow us to afford it, plenty of paid vacation days and much more.

We shouldn’t let the hardships of life completely cloud the good things we have going on. I’m trying to be better at this.

Christmas and other dates

  

The meaning of Christmas has changed to me over the years. 

While growing up in my tropical hometown, Christmas was not much more than a nice, big family get-together, with traditional foods and few other rituals (such as exchanging gifts), but not much different than any other family party. 

The first Christmas holiday my European husband spent at my home country was eye opening for him. Hosted at my grandma’s house (when she’s still alive), there were about 150 people, spread on several tables set in the garden. There was live music and the dinner was served buffet style. We were laughing and dancing and singing karaoke. There was some Christmas songs, a Christmas tree and other decoration, which would set the season’s mood, but other than that, it was just another summer evening spent among family.

Living in Northern Europe, Christmas became somewhat more special to me. I realised how much excitement it would bring to most people, and the Christmas lights and decorations had a much different meaning when illuminating ever darker days. Christmas Eve also symbolises the winter solstice, so it became a countdown to better, warmer, lighter days to come, and something special to enjoy and look forward to during those long, dark, cold nights. Not to mention the overwhelming number of traditions people here follow so joyfully. 

I embraced this newfound Christmas spirit and especially enjoyed buying and decorating a ‘real’ tree (in contrast to the plastic tree or whatever-tropical-plant-one-already-has-at-home approach in my home country). We also started some of our own traditions, such as our friends dinner, which involved too much food and deserts, games and gift exchanging. 

This annual reunion was very special to me, because these friends are like a second family; they are our family here, in this place we chose to live in. This party always happens several days before Christmas Eve, as most of us travel back to our home countries during the actual holidays. My husband and I try to be with one of our families each year, usually swapping between the two every time.

Everything changed in 2013 with our first loss. That year I couldn’t care for Christmas celebrations. There were no decorations in our home and our friends dinner got canceled, as they decided they didn’t want to celebrate without us. 

Last year, I was pregnant for the third time when December came in. I wanted to be positive about this pregnancy, as we had seen the baby’s heartbeat on the 7 week scan in the end of November, so I decided to take Christmas back with maximum intensity. We chose and cut down our own 2 m high tree, which we placed in our living room to add to all decorations I had all around: lights by the window, snowflakes and other things. I carefully chose which dishes to prepare for our friends party, which we were hosting. We also prepared several games and even a Christmas playlist. We got confirmation of two couples coming from abroad only for this party. Everything was planned and organised and we were super excited. I had also decided to announce the pregnancy during the dinner. Only we never had the party.

On a Tuesday we had our 10 week scan, which showed there’s no more heartbeat. On the Saturday, when we’re supposed to be hosting the big dinner party, we were at home, suffering through the misoprostol induced miscarriage (tomorrow marks one year from that date, when we lost our third baby). It should have been a memorable day, celebrating life among our best friends. It was memorable, no doubt, but for different reasons. It was one of the most terrible days in my life and one I’ll never forget. The physical pain, the blood, the orange-sized clots, the contractions lasting for about 14 hours, the emotional pain of loosing our much loved baby, the loneliness of this journey, all still too engraved in my brain.

Today, only 2 months after our last loss, it’s hard to enjoy the Christmas season. Too many bad memories haunt me these days: our first loss on November 29, 2013, our second baby due date on December 8, 2014, our third loss on December 13, 2014. My husband struggling with anxiety and no end in sight to our pain are weighting too.

Although we’re attending our friends dinner tonight, I’m afraid it’s going to be difficult. Besides the three children attending, my pregnant friend will be there, a living reminder of where my own fourth pregnancy should be at. I find it very hard being around her now, when she’s obviously showing and everyone around her are openly excited and rejoicing (even though they know of everything we’ve been through). 

It’s not all bad, though. Next Saturday we’re travelling to my husband’s home country in south Europe, and we will be on vacation for 3 whole weeks! I’m very much looking forward to warmer temperatures, lighter days and no work-related stress. We’re spending Christmas Eve and day with his family in the countryside, as usual. The food will be great and the atmosphere, relaxing. Being surrounded by small children, not so much. Meeting the new addition to the family, born last month, definitely not easy.

That’s why we decided to book a one week retreat by the beautiful coast, on a natural park, where we can take long strolls over the cliffs by the beach and enjoy nature and the mild temperatures. I’m very much looking forward to that, hoping it will help both my husband and I a little, just enough to recharge our batteries for the next battle round waiting for us. 

In the meantime, we’ve decided not to have a tree in our house this year, but we’ve hanged the lights by the window and I’ve placed a few small decorations around the house. We don’t want to skip Christmas completely, but we’re trying to take care of ourselves as best as we can.

Coping

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In my last post, I described how I felt when my life suddenly changed in an unexpected way. I found myself in a pit of grief, guilt, shame and despair. Since then, I’ve learned how to live with these feelings a little better. I’ve learned to cope better.

As sad and depressing my posts regarding our latest loss may seem, this is the best I’ve ever felt after a miscarriage. I don’t know exactly what have changed, but I feel better. I still can’t sleep well, have back pains and migraines, don’t want to socialize much and have a hard time enjoying almost anything, but it still feels a lot better than the other times.

For my husband, on the other hand, this is the lowest he has ever reached. He’s really struggling right now and it breaks my heart to watch him.

After the ectopic surgery, when we lost our first pregnancy, our hopes and dreams, but also a significant part of our fertility with one of my tubes gone, I worried we wouldn’t be able to conceive again. My husband was a lot more optimistic. His main concerns were about my health, both physical and mental, as he watched me struggle with depression and grief.

I imagine he never really got attached to that baby. One Saturday I showed him a positive pregnancy test, the following Tuesday the midwife was telling us something is wrong. The whole pregnancy he was probably focused on helping me go through this. I, however, couldn’t ignore the overwhelming changes in my body, likely caused by the high levels of HCG; and at every glimmer of hope offered by a doctor, I would cling to it and wish our baby, our little survivor, would be found healthy and well. When reality hit us, I guess it was easier for him to let go.

A few months later, when I found out I was pregnant again, we ran to the doctors to see if the baby had implanted in the right place this time. I had a trip to my home country, booked months before, to only a couple of days after we knew I was pregnant and all was well, though so very early. I left, alone, and spent over 2 weeks there, several thousand kilometres away. I should have been happy and grateful, and I was, but it was that new pregnancy that made me realise how I hadn’t finished grieving our first baby and the guilt and sadness resurfaced.

When I arrived back, the doctors consultations and doubts over the viability of this baby immediately started. Yet again, my husband never really lived that pregnancy, never really got attached. He supported me through our first medical abortion with misoprostol, through the painful procedure, the fear of the unknown, only the both of us, at home, alone. His focus was on getting me well and healthy again, and probably only the sight of the perfectly intact gestational sac and placenta, fitting my hand palm exactly, as we sat in the bathroom looking at it, made him realise there really was a baby.

The third pregnancy is when it all changed for him. This was our take-home baby in his mind. He filled his heart with plans and hopes for the future after the 7 week scan showed a perfectly sized embryo with a beating heart. I, the forever pessimist, kept calculating HCG rising times and worrying, even as doctors, friends and family insisted everything was fine.

Three weeks later, when the heartbeat was gone and we had to endure another medical abortion, I still felt desperately sad, though my husband was falling from much greater highs. The day after the medical procedure was the first time I’ve seen him cry, sob and talk about his feelings towards our babies.

At that time I decided I couldn’t go on like this any longer. I needed to feel better, to cope, if we were to continue on this path. Or I couldn’t keep trying. That’s when I found all your blogs and started following your journeys silently. I also started seeing a therapist and doing yoga and acupuncture. I was open to anything that could help me with the pain.

My husband went on as he did with the other losses, moving forward and stuffing his feelings down. I think he didn’t expect it to be any different or harder this time; only it was.

As we saw different doctors in the hope of figuring out why I was loosing the babies, the recommendation to try IVF came in. At first I thought it was pointless, I could get pregnant naturally, why would the fate of our babies be any different if they’re fertilised outside my body? Doctors couldn’t answer this, but proposed to choose the best embryo, the one with the best chances of surviving. I wasn’t convinced. My husband, the ever optimistic, trusting the doctors, believed this was going to be it.

While we decided whether to move forward with IVF or not, I wanted us to try (and I really mean try) to get pregnant again, the natural way. Seeing how hard it was becoming for him to follow my baby making schedules was the only clue to how difficult this experience was for him too. And that’s what ultimately made me agree to IVF.

Pregnant again, after the second fresh cycle, I kept anxiously worrying, while my husband trusted this was finally it. IVF was our answer and our baby was here.

As our world came crushing down once more, I think he finally understood this is not going to be easy. There’s no easy way out, only a very long and painful way ahead of us. I think this realisation is what he’s struggling with now.

Last Wednesday he went to see our GP and told her he’s been having constant anxiety attacks, among other symptoms. She suggested medication and recommended therapy. She also gave him a leave note for a week, when she wants to see him again. He, therefore, have not been going to work since then. He had one therapy session and have another one scheduled, but isn’t very convinced psychology can help him.

We’re trying to get the therapy paid by our private health insurance, provided by our employer, but I’m not sure it will work out. So far, I’ve been paying for my sessions out of pocket, even though it was recommended by our GP, because the insurance said they only cover losses after 20 weeks. I guess we’re supposed to not feel anything before 20 weeks. And it doesn’t matter how many losses one has, I’ve also tried arguing for that; they only look at how far along was the last pregnancy.

In a way, it feels we’ve switched places now. I’m helplessly heartbroken as there’s nothing I can do to make him feel better. I imagine that’s how he felt about me with every loss. I want to tell him, give me your pain, I’ll take it, I’ve learned to live with it now, but I can’t. I can only hope we can go through this new challenge, as we’ve been able so far.

However, I can’t help but wonder, is there a limit to how much heartache a relationship can take? Even if we are honest, communicate well and respect each other, will there ever be a time when all our memories, moments and lives are so overwhelmed by sadness and pain we only remind each other of past struggles and can’t find happiness together anymore? I hope not.